Last Dollar Road is the olden days supply route between Ouray and Telluride; it goes around the biggest mountains so as not to go over. It's a wanderer, this road, like you and me, twisting through groves of autumnal aspen that shimmer with gold coin leaves. Those coins eventually succumb to breeze, paving Last Dollar's dirt and rock under layer upon layer of fall medallions. On a cloudless Indian Summer day, Leonard and I pedaled through seductive rolling fields... "leaves of grass..." solar-splashed meadows that can tempt a mountain biker off the wedge between his legs for a little snack-n-nap in the warm sun.
But napping in the sun doesn't get one up and over a 10,600 foot mountain pass and down to Smuggler's Brewery in Telluride, does it? Nope, it doesn't put a single solitary frothy headed, sweaty glassed, hopped to perfection Road Rash Ale in ones parched gullet. Only sitting one's tired ass back on his saddle, and cranking up an aspen-shawdowed backroad in gears lower than a snake will land you in front of an adult beverage and a burger bigger than your mother-in-law's mouth. That's the power of a good brew, my friends, second only to love.
We cheated, Marathon Man Leonard and I... loaded our bikes onto the back of his Jeep and drove to Ridgway's town park to begin our long ride to Telluride. It only saved ten down hill miles and 30 minutes, but it was time my butt would be thanking me for... five hours later. Our legs felt flat, inching up out of Ridgway, I guess because we didn't have common sense enough to rest them the day before. Leonard went on a ten mile run, while I pumped hand weights on a hike up Camp Bird road. So we were summarily dusted by several middle aged gals on road bikes pedaling up the paved ascent to Dallas Divide... as in about like we were standing still. I wanted to place blame, the headwind... old age... my heavy pack... knobby tires... sunspots! But I kept excuses to myself and simply wished the show offs a good day (sigh).
I finally caught up with Leonard a mile and a half on the other side of Dallas Divide... peeing under cover of willow bushes on Last Dollar Road. Good riddance to pavement, diesel trucks, and biker haters that lay on their horns like, "how dare you ride on my shoulder!" WTF? Some people just need some-thing to hate. The reality is, they probably hate themselves, their life and their wife... and take it out on who ever is handy. It's why mean people should not be allowed to have dogs.
Traffic was light and slow on Last Dollar Road... it kept shrinking out from under us until it was only two tracks. And it steepened, of course. Our weary legs had us discussing a turnaround, a free fall back to Town Park... relaxing under the shade of hundred year old cottonwood trees, licking ice cream and watching pretty girls play tennis. But how to explain that to Bobbie? She was doing sag wagon duty in Sue Bee, waiting somewhere up the road in case we needed something, like a ride, or CPR.
I've been noticing, lately, how it seems to help Leonard... when he's grunting out a long steep hill... to talk to cows, scream, holler, sing, moan, groan... etc; a waste of precious oxygen to me, but entertaining nonetheless.
We met up with Bobbie for lunch in a cow-pattied open meadow near the stunted growth edge of an aspen forest... a place swallowed in parks bigger than Rhode Island. Maybe not the most aromatic picnic spot, but hey, this is the west; ranchers and their cows have rights of way. Bobbie was fighting a cold, else we'd have no sag wagon to come to our rescue. I knew she would rather be riding than driving, but doing this sure beat staying home. Onward.
We could see our saddle objective... up where light and cheerful aspen groves gave way to a plague of dark forest spruce. Last Dollar serpentined back and forth, inching it's way up, taking the long way and it's good ole time. We paused pre-summit for one last overlook. Skies were hazed from fires up north. It seemed so un-fall like; it's usually crisp and clear as a bell in September and October. I did the best I could with photos... cropping out midday glare and smokey sky.
Finally, the pass, 10,600 feet, a wide open view of Whipple Mountain, Telluride's ski slopes and a dazzling montage of aspen in full autumn bloom. Knowing my work was done, I did a quick disc brake adjustment. Now for the fun... all downhill from here to beer. A free-wheeling, adrenalized free fall decent to Smuggler's Brew Pub in T—Town. Giddy-up, 29'er!